written by:
January 30, 2009
Joining the Grecian urn, the much-rhapsodized IKEA cabinet finally gets its poetic due as a heroic ode. Anyone who owns a set may verily be inclined to put quill to paper and dash off a few stanzas of their own.

Writer Dan Maginn’s Ode to the Ikea Cabinet says it best:

“O CABINETS, thou art affordable and shall fit like 
Careless laughter on our walls! Yet ye remain incomplete. 
’Tis time to cloak you properly. What color are thy doors 
And drawers? Be ye wood’n made, or be ye glossed in shiny Resin? Do steely knobs populate thine countenance? Companion! Like siblings at play with Mr. Potato Head, let 
Us now select a proper face for our Kitchen-Tuber. Duvbo? We smileth not at thee. Ärlig? No—thou art too white. Lo! Who’s this? Companion! What think thee of Linjär? Aye! 
Blue of face, sleek of handle, (shines she not brighter
’Pon our approach?) LINJÄR! Thou art ours!”

kitchens 101 an ode ikea

Writer Dan Maginn’s Ode to the Ikea Cabinet says it best:

“O CABINETS, thou art affordable and shall fit like 
Careless laughter on our walls! Yet ye remain incomplete. 
’Tis time to cloak you properly. What color are thy doors 
And drawers? Be ye wood’n made, or be ye glossed in shiny Resin? Do steely knobs populate thine countenance? Companion! Like siblings at play with Mr. Potato Head, let 
Us now select a proper face for our Kitchen-Tuber. Duvbo? We smileth not at thee. Ärlig? No—thou art too white. Lo! Who’s this? Companion! What think thee of Linjär? Aye! 
Blue of face, sleek of handle, (shines she not brighter
’Pon our approach?) LINJÄR! Thou art ours!”

O IKEA1, thou art filled with brimming distractions! 
Already we have consum’d so much in thy nest. 
Our bags are nigh full of Secondary Things2 
We came not for. Let us locate our Primary Desire: 
’Tis Kitchen Cabinets we seek. Companion! 
Release the gnome-shaped candle from thine grip.
(’Tis odd-looking, that.) Drop also the penguin-shaped 
Dog toy and focus thine attention! See ye not 
What I see? Past the digital clocks, there. Behold 
My lingonberry-stained finger: It points to Cabinets.

O COMPANION! Let us enter the show-kitchen together 
And pretend that it is ours.3 (Though ’tis a fiction, ’twill 
Help us imagine our own sweet reality.) Look! Here I am Roasting an imaginary beef! See? Let’s take it out of the 
Oven, and let it cool down. Companion! Put thyself to 
Good use and prep these invisible organic carrots next 
To me. Have ye enough room to peel them? Where art 
Thy carrot pan? Is she in a cabinet there? Yes, ’tis there! 
This layout, subtly modified has many merits. ’Twill 
Function quite well with our real beefs and carrots.

O CABINETS, thou art affordable4 and shall fit like 
Careless laughter on our walls! Yet ye remain incomplete. 
’Tis time to cloak you properly. What color are thy doors 
And drawers? Be ye wood’n made, or be ye glossed in shiny Resin? Do steely knobs populate thine countenance? 5 Companion! Like siblings at play with Mr. Potato Head, let 
Us now select a proper face for our Kitchen-Tuber. Duvbo? We smileth not at thee. Ärlig? No—thou art too white. Lo! Who’s this? Companion! What think thee of Linjär? Aye! 
Blue of face, sleek of handle, (shines she not brighter 6 
’Pon our approach?) LINJÄR!7 Thou art ours!

(1) In an attempt to poetically explore the cultish phenomenon of IKEA kitchens, my girlfriend and I recently traveled from Kansas City to the IKEA in Minneapolis. Our Primary Goal was to research their Äkurum modular cabinet system—the Secret Weapon of design-savvy urban dwellers across the globe.



(2) Inside the store, as we made our way up to locate our Primary Desire, we grabbed a cart and began hoarding Secondary Things. It is easy to get distracted at IKEA: How can you pass up these wee stainless steel bowls, for instance? Six for two dollars? Or these fun corks? They don’t have corks like these, these exact corks, 
in Kansas City.



(3) What? You’re too good to play house? Listen, friend, you’re not buying a lamp here, so take it up a notch and get gritty. If you’re serious about an IKEA kitchen, you need to drop your catalog and go test your culinary/social theories in physical space/time. Chop some fake onions and sip some good fake Shiraz in a real kitchen as you fake talk to your fake friends. Ask yourself: Is this fun? Am I making a good risotto here, or am I just stirring rice?



(4) For comparison, IKEA 
bases the prices of their kitchen models on a ten-by-ten-foot, L-shaped design. For a well-built, modular kitchen without appliances, you’ll spend somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000. Although these prices are hilariously low, they don’t factor in the hours required to properly assemble and install your kitchen. Find a kitchen-savvy Ikean and ask them to ask you if you need help in all this. Think about what they’re asking. If you say “yes” to their question, then ask for their help. They’re very helpful.



(5) Once you have decided on the best functional arrangement for your kitchen, the next step is to finalize the package. Obviously, the same layout can look completely different based on your material and hardware choices. Talk to an Ikean about the pros and cons of different styles. Some models look kind of desperate in the store but would look great in the right house. Others look glossy and sweet in the showroom but would require constant cleaning. (Nothing de-cools an otherwise cool kitchen like greasy fingerprints on all the doors and drawers. Do you want to communicate, “We eat a lot of chicken nuggets,” when your boss comes over for dinner?)



(6) While you’re at it, ask about lighting. Yogi Berra once said: “A great kitchen without great lighting is a sucky kitchen.”



(7) Duvbo and Ärlig are two of the roughly 20 models offered at IKEA. Our favorite model is Linjär, designed by the Swede Mikael Warnhammar. It utilizes the same Äkurum modular cabinets as all IKEA kitchens, but it is

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016
Monti catered to his mother’s love of cooking by giving her ample storage areas along the 70-foot long walnut wall-slash-cabinet. The refrigerator, kitchen items and other goods easily disappear into the wall when not in use. The nonporous, stain-, scratc
Sometimes the earthy colors and vivid grain of a wood like walnut is all you need to make a space.
February 02, 2016
renovated modern home in Austin interior kitchen
From California to Connecticut, these midcentury interiors still shine through thanks to the careful attention of architects and residents alike.
February 02, 2016
Outdoor dining area at a Saigon home.
A city home honors the local culture with communal outdoor space and reclaimed materials.
February 02, 2016
Affordable Portland home upper floor wrapped in black corrugated steel
These homes revel in both nature and city life.
February 01, 2016
London bedroom with exposed beams.
These homes show their bones to great effect.
February 01, 2016
Bar in an Amsterdam loft.
Bend an elbow with us at these very local watering holes.
February 01, 2016